US President Donald Trump asked governors across the country on Wednesday to work to reopen schools that were closed because of the coronavirus, clearly questioning Dr. Anthony Fauci against the rapid change in sending students back to school.
The president accused Fauci of wanting to "play all sides of the equation", a comment that suggests he is getting tired of the country's leading infectious disease specialist.
"I think they should open schools, absolutely. I think they should," Trump told reporters at the White House, echoing the comments he had made in a television interview. "Our country needs to come back and it should come back as soon as possible. And I don't think our country will come back if schools are closed."
Fauci called for caution in testifying before a Senate commission on Tuesday, although he made it clear that he believes the reopening of decisions is likely to differ from region to region.
"We don't know everything about this virus and it's best to be very careful, especially when it comes to children," Fauci told the committee. At one point, he told members that "the idea of having treatments available or a vaccine to facilitate the reintegration of students in the fall would be a little too distant."
Fauci later clarified that he was not implying that students should be prevented from returning to school until a COVID-19 vaccine is developed. But his comments were apprehended by conservative commentators, as well as Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who called the notion "a little ridiculous".
WATCH Fauci warns against hasty reopening:
"For me, it is not an acceptable answer," Trump said of Fauci on Wednesday. He said the coronavirus "had very little impact on young people", although there is growing concern about cases of a mysterious inflammatory syndrome in young people believed to be related to the virus.
Speaking in Fauci, Trump told Maria Bartiromo in an interview with Fox Business Network Mornings with maria that "I totally disagree with him in schools".
Trump and Fauci have publicly disagreed before, including on the effectiveness of certain drugs that have been tested to treat the virus. Trump also complained to advisers and confidants about Fauci's positive media attention and his willingness to contradict the president. But Trump also acknowledged that the reaction to the doctor's removal would be fierce.
In his testimony, Fauci issued an abrupt warning that cities and states could "go back in time" and see more deaths and economic damage if they quickly override orders to stay home – a message that contrasts sharply with Trump's pressure to reopen the nation as he tries to mitigate the economic damage caused by the pandemic during an election year.
"There is a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak that you may not be able to control," warned Fauci, when more than two dozen states began to lift their blockades.
Among them are Colorado and North Dakota, whose governors met with Trump on Wednesday.
In North Dakota, which has had fewer cases than many other states, Republican Governor Doug Burgum allowed most companies to reopen on May 1 with precautions that include limiting bars and restaurants to half capacity and requiring barbers and beauticians to wear masks. .
Burgum announced this week that schools may offer some summer programs starting June 1, if local school officials approve and precautions are taken, such as limiting class sizes.
At the same time, cases and deaths continued to increase. State health officials on Tuesday reported two new deaths from COVID-19, bringing its death toll to 38. The state also recorded 53 new cases, bringing the total to 1,571.
The impact in Colorado was much worse. The death toll exceeded 1,000 this week, with more than 20,000 having a positive result.
Democratic Governor Jared Polis this month began to gradually relax restrictions, however, while warning that there could be setbacks if the virus emerges.
Polis had criticized the Federal Emergency Management Agency during the early days of the pandemic for buying personal protective equipment and other supplies that Colorado, like many states, had been negotiating with private suppliers. But recently, he took a more diplomatic approach to working with the government.
The White House has stepped up precautions in recent days to protect the president and senior government officials from the virus, after two individuals working on the compound have had positive results. Having had contact with one of these people, Vice President Mike Pence keeps his distance from Trump, speaking on the phone and not in person.
"I haven't seen Mike Pence and I miss him," said Trump. "For a while, we will be separated because you don't know what happens to this very crazy and horrible disease."